Every waking moment, there’s a mysteriously-growing nuisance in our country. It’s called the fast lane. I’m not talking about the far left lane on the freeway, either. It is the self-checkout lane at grocery stores. They’re good for just about one thing: that is, when you only buy one thing! And it can’t be produce, lightweight, or bags of ice!
The idea behind the fast lane goes something like this:
Once upon a time, before the 1960s, when hippies and bellbottoms hadn’t come about yet, and kitchens were decorated in turquoise and goldenrod, there was essentially one way to purchase your groceries at the supermarket: any of the one type of checkout lines. So if all you needed was milk and bread, and the person in front of you was buying enough food to feed an army for a month, then tough luck, you had to wait. Doing your shopping for thanksgiving dinner at your place? Better make it an all-day outing (most of it, waiting in line at the checkout).
Perhaps it was all the throwing-around of the “s” word (segregation) in the sixties that inspired the brainchild of the express lane. It was a hit! People with lots of stuff, go over here, and people with not-a-lot of stuff, go over there. Customers who needed to buy only a few items didn’t have to risk waiting behind the lady with seventy cans of cat food. So it goes, supermarkets caught on and soon ran two, or three, or more express checkout lanes.
This is where things might as well have been left alone. But in the early 1990s, someone invented the ever-convenient self-checkout, or the fast lane. Alas! An even faster means to pay for your groceries! Or is it? As it turns out, most of the benefit derived from the fast lane is for the supermarket itself. It can run up to four or six lanes with just one employee. Jackpot! I even went to a store once where the only option was self-checkout. I’ll admit, I was a little offended. Therein lies a fundamental error. Retailers are assuming that we actually want or like to ring up our own things.
There are plenty of do-it-yourself things I like to do: mow the yard, fix the house, fluff my pillow, assemble my kids’ toys, etc. But asking me to ring up my groceries at the store is like asking me to cook my own food at a restaurant. That kind of defeats the purpose! Pretty soon, I’ll be pumping my own gas and answering my own door. . . oh wait, I already do.
Oh please, super-duper-ultra shop-ville-mart, please don’t steal one of the last, lavish, little liberties in life. Just check me out!
By: S. Cole Garrett